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Bulk Up Workout Plan for Skinny Guys to Gain Muscle

stylish man in workout

Whether you're a skinny guy trying to bulk up or a bigger guy aiming to lose fat and build lean muscle, we understand your goals. If you're new to exercise or want to see quick results in transforming your physique, we've got you covered. While a year-long transformation is commendable, why not speed up the process if you can? Shawn Arent, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. D, a member of the Medical and Science Advisory Board for Blueprint for Athletes and the director of Rutgers University's Institute For Food, Nutrition, and Health Center for Health & Human Performance, has developed a plan that outlines the necessary changes in your diet and training over the next five weeks. We have also included specific modifications for skinny guys looking to gain weight and bigger guys aiming to reduce fat while gaining lean mass. Are you ready for an incredible transformation?

Bulking Up Workout Plan for Skinny Guys to Gain Muscle

In order to achieve optimal results in your fitness journey, Arent emphasizes that several factors play a significant role. These include the intensity and volume of your workouts, how frequently you engage in training sessions, the number of sets performed for each specific body part, and ensuring adequate consumption of high-quality protein in sufficient quantities. While we will delve into more detailed nutrition information shortly, it is recommended to start by aiming for a minimum intake of one gram of protein per pound of body weight. Nevertheless, Arent points out that recent studies indicate that slightly increasing protein intake may yield even more significant benefits. Equally important is prioritizing rest and recovery periods. Allowing ample time for muscle repair accompanied by appropriate nutrient intake is crucial for sustaining progress. Protein provides essential amino acids necessary for muscle repair, growth, and maintenance. In contrast, carbohydrates replenish energy stores to prepare you adequately for subsequent intense workout sessions.

Skinny Guys

Okay, so let's break down what we're talking about when we say 'bulking up,' Arent points out. If you're solely focused on gaining muscle mass, a big part of the equation is going to be chowing down, he elaborates. You've got to fuel up with a ton of grub to keep those calorie numbers in the green.

Big Guys

Arent emphasizes that if your goal is to gain muscle without gaining fat, it is crucial to focus on three key factors:

·  The intensity and frequency of your workouts

·  The protein intake in your diet

·  The quality and duration of your sleep

And now for the nitty-gritty details:

How Often You Need to Hit the Gym

If you're new to fitness or have recently started weightlifting, it's essential to commit to working out at least three times a week. Scientific research supports this recommendation as an effective way of achieving visible results without overwhelming your body. As you progress in your fitness journey, aim for four workout sessions per week. However, if you've been dedicated for quite some time (around a year), aiming for four to five workouts weekly would be excellent. Four workouts are preferable as they allow for recovery, and the inclusion of alternative movements explains Arent. By alternative movements, he means that it's not solely about hitting the gym – activities like hiking, cycling, or swimming also count towards maintaining fitness levels. It's unnecessary to spend six days each week lifting heavy weights; such high volume is excessive and counterproductive in most cases. If you're experienced and seeking additional training volume and muscle growth, gradually increase your workout frequency from four to five days per week.

Where Cardio Fits In

Arent emphasizes that extended periods of cardiovascular exercise can interfere with gains in strength and hypertrophy; however, this outcome is contingent upon one's specific objectives. For individuals seeking to reduce body fat and maintain a lean physique – particularly those with larger builds – incorporating cardio workouts is not necessarily detrimental but should be approached differently. High-intensity interval training is recommended as it aligns more closely with anaerobic-based training methods prevalent among fitness enthusiasts like yourself.

Furthermore, intriguing research suggests potential benefits when combining aerobic work in the morning with resistance training later in the day due to a priming effect that aids adaptation processes within the body. While this approach will not miraculously sculpt bulging biceps overnight through morning H.I.I.T. routines followed by traditional lifts at night, it does provide an optimal strategy for those who wish to continue incorporating cardio into their routines. It is worth noting that cardio exercises offer valuable health benefits despite the claims of muscle enthusiasts who often dismiss them as time-wasting endeavors. Cardiovascular workouts contribute to overall heart health and enhance cardiovascular conditioning, which ultimately supports recovery efforts. As long as resistance training remains the primary focus of your regimen, you can anticipate a relatively smooth path toward achieving maximum muscle mass within a month.

Sets Per Body Part

According to research, accumulating more sets is generally beneficial for gaining muscle mass. A study conducted by Arent found that performing roughly 10-12 or 10-14 sets per body part per week leads to significantly greater hypertrophy compared to doing only 3-6 or 6-8 sets. For instance, if you focus on your chest muscles, you can follow a traditional body part split routine where you work on your chest one day, back another day, and shoulders on a different day throughout the week. However, there are alternative approaches as well. You can opt for an upper and lower body split over four days: upper body workout on Monday, lower body workout on Tuesday, upper body workout again on Thursday, and lower body workout again on Friday. On your two upper body days, aim to complete at least 10 sets for the chest muscles in total, advises Arent. For example, you could do 6 sets of bench presses and 6 sets of flyes on Monday and Thursday, respectively. This way, you would have completed a total of 12 sets for the week. Arent further explains that it is the cumulative number of sets performed throughout the week that has an impact rather than doing all the sets in one session. There is no evidence suggesting that performing all the sets in a single day is superior to spreading them out across multiple days targeting the same muscle group. It is ideal to rotate through these workouts more frequently.

When you train a muscle, it goes through a breakdown process. This is because you are causing damage to the muscle, which allows it to grow and adapt by healing itself. However, you don't target the muscle again once it has reached its peak healing. In that case, it will return to its baseline level without experiencing super-compensation. Super compensation is when the muscle heals and grows beyond its previous state. By doing your next body part-specific workout during this healing period, you will become stronger and be able to lift more weight, do more volume, and improve your overall performance. In short, it's essential to have only a few days between your body part workouts.

Another practical approach is to follow push-pull programs for your workouts. These traditional workouts provide built-in recovery as you move from one exercise to another. For example, if you go from bench press to rows and then shoulder press, your anterior delts have enough time to recover while you are performing the other exercises. Another option is splitting your workouts into chest and back days, shoulders and arms days, and leg days over four days. This allows for targeted training of different muscle groups while still providing adequate rest for each group in between sessions.

Day 1: Workout 1 (Chest and Back)

Day 2: Workout 2 (Shoulders and Arms)

Day 3: Workout 3 (Legs)

Day 4: Workout 4 (Chest and Back)

During a two-week cycle, all areas are worked out at least twice. To assist with your training, we have provided an example of an upper-lower body split as well as a chest black, arms, shoulders, and legs split on the last page.

A Note On Nutrition and Meal Frequency

How often you should eat:

Meal frequency and nutrient timing are highly valued by Arent in terms of health and fitness. However, there is no strict requirement to consume protein immediately after completing your workouts. According to him, an effective strategy involves spreading out your protein intake throughout the day in smaller portions consumed more frequently. The recommended amount is approximately 20-40g per feeding (or even up to 50g for individuals with larger body sizes). This translates to around .3-.35g of protein per kilogram of body weight. For instance, if you weigh 100kg (220lb), it is advisable to aim for 35-40g of protein per meal distributed evenly across the day. Rather than thinking about it as having three main meals and three snacks, Arent proposes consuming five to six meals every 2-3 hours instead. He also advises against associating these additional meals with snacks that often involve consuming unhealthy processed foods. Instead, opt for wholesome options such as meat and vegetables, fruit, or starch. It's important to note that while it is possible to gain muscle mass with just three meals a day, many individuals struggle with the calculations involved.

How much protein you should get:

Your body can only absorb around 30-50g of protein per meal. So, if you weigh 100kg and need 2-2.5g of protein per kg, you'd have to eat 70-80g of protein per meal if you're only eating three times a day. But that doesn't make sense mathematically. You'd have to eat six times a day for it to work. If you want to lose weight, meal frequency isn't necessary, but if you want to improve your body composition and gain lean mass, then it's essential.

How much time after a workout can pass until you should eat:

According to Arent, every time you eat is an opportunity to reach your leucine threshold. Leucine plays a significant role in protein synthesis and muscle growth. Maximizing this response leads to the best outcomes. Arent explains that some individuals may argue against the existence of an anabolic window. Still, it does exist, although it is more like a garage door in size. This window remains open for approximately 24 hours. Therefore, why not consume as much protein as possible? The timing of protein intake does impact how effectively your body utilizes it.

Where most guys go wrong:

Arent explains that even if you eat right after your workout, it will only make a difference if you're getting enough protein throughout the day. You'll still need to improve the foundation layer of protein. However, if you do consume enough protein and also time it correctly, you'll notice even more impressive results. If your goal is to reduce body fat and build muscle, your calorie intake will differ from someone who is already lean but wants to gain size. Your starting point and objectives are the key factors here.

How many calories you need per day:

According to Arent, a commonly used rule of thumb suggests consuming 15-20 calories per pound of body weight. However, he recommends sticking to the range of 16-18 calories, as this is just a rough estimate. From there, you can adjust your calorie intake based on your fat-to-muscle ratio and rate of weight gain. On days when you're not training, it's advisable to reduce your calorie intake by around 300.

Alternatively, Arent suggests using guidelines for energy availability. This refers to the amount of energy left for your body's other functions after accounting for exercise, growth, and repair. Typically, an energy availability of approximately 45 calories per kilogram of fat-free mass (not just body weight) is associated with optimal health and performance among athletes. Consuming fewer than 30 calories per kilogram of fat-free mass per day can result in a slower metabolism and hormonal imbalances. Additionally, an intake below 25 kcal per kilogram of fat-free mass may disrupt thyroid hormone function. Although most research has been conducted on females, these principles also apply to men, according to Arent.

Skinny Guys:

Arent advises incorporating a pre-bedtime meal into your routine if you aim to build muscle and add weight. Consuming approximately 60-70g of nutrients to compensate for any deficits throughout the day is highly recommended. Moreover, scientific research supports the notion that this practice positively influences body composition, repair processes, and overall recovery.

Bigger Guys:

It's essential to keep your protein intake at about 2 grams per pound of body weight and make changes as necessary. If you find yourself gaining too much fat, consider upping your protein intake a bit and cutting back on carbs.

The Routines

We've got a workout for each day of the week, targeting your chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs. Plus, we've thrown in two fat-burning H.I.I.T. workouts. According to Arent, body type doesn't matter when it comes to lifting programs.


Deadlift: 4x6-10 reps with 120-180 sec rest

D.B. Bench Press: 4x 6-10 with 120-180 sec rest

Seated Row: 4x6-10 with 120-sec rest

D.B. Incline Press: 4x6-10 with 120-sec rest

Wide Grip Pulldown: 4x8-12 with 90-120 sec rest

Pec Deck: 3x8-12 with 90-120 sec rest

Straight Arm Pulldown: 3x8-12 with 90 sec rest


Arnold Presses: 3x6-10 with 120-180 sec rest

Shrugs: 3x6-10 with 120-180 sec rest

D.B. Lateral Raises: 3x8-12 with 90-120 sec rest

Reverse Pec Deck: 3x8-12 with 90-120 sec rest

Tricep Pushdowns (rope): 3x8-12 with 90-sec rest

D.B. Bicep Curls: 3x8-12 with 90-sec rest

D.B. Tricep Extensions: 3x8-12 with 90-sec rest

DB Hammer Curls: 3x8-12 with 90 sec rest


Squats: 4x6-12 with 120-180 sec rest

Lunges: 4x6-12 per leg with 120-180 sec rest

Romanian Deadlift: 4x6-12 with 120-180 sec rest

Leg Extensions: 4x10-15 with 120-sec rest

Lying Leg Curl: 4x10-15 with 120-sec rest

Standing Calf Raise: 3x12-18 with 90 sec rest

Seated Calf Raise: 3x12-18 with 90 sec rest

Upper Body

Bench Press: 4x6-10 reps with 120-180 sec rest

One-Arm Dumbell Row: 4x6-10 with 120-180 sec rest

Standing Shoulder Press: 4x 6-10 with 120-180 sec rest

Pullups: 4xAMRAP with 120-sec rest

Dumbell Incline Flye: 3x8-12 with 120 sec rest

High Pull: 3x8-10 with 120-sec rest

Tricep Pushdowns: 3x8-12 with 90-120 sec rest

Preacher Curls: 3x8-12 with 90-120 sec rest

Lower Body

Front Squat: 4x8-12 with 120-180 sec rest

Bulgarian Split Squat: 4x6-10 per leg with 120-180 sec rest

Good Mornings: 4x8-10 with 120-180 sec rest

Lateral Band Walks: 3x8-10 per leg with 90-120 sec rest

Hip Thrusts: 3x8-12 with 90-120 sec rest

Leg Extension: 3x10-15 with 90-120 sec rest

Seated Leg Curls: 3x10-15 with 90-120 sec rest

Donkey Calf Raises: 3x12-18 with 90 sec rest

H.I.I.T. Routines

Suppose you're trying to shed body fat while also gaining muscle. In that case, I suggest incorporating two days of high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) and at least one day of moderate-intensity steady-state cardio into your weekly workout routine, advises Arent. It's best to schedule these workouts in the morning if you plan on lifting weights later in the day. Remember to start with a 5-minute warm-up before diving into your exercises. The concept behind H.I.I.T. is to push yourself to the limit during each interval, so make sure you warm up properly beforehand!

Choose: Run (treadmill or outdoors) or bike (stationary or outdoors)

Workout 1:

10 intervals: 30 seconds work with 1 – 1.5 min recovery

5 intervals: 60 seconds work with 2 min recovery

10 minutes constant speed at moderate to moderate-high intensity

Workout 2:

4 intervals: 30 seconds work with 1 min recovery

4 intervals: 45 seconds work with 1.5 min recovery

4 intervals: 60 seconds work with 2 min recovery

3 intervals: 2 min work with 2 min recovery




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